Bucs running back Cadillac Williams' season came to a disappointing end in Week 4 vs. Carolina when he sustained a season-ending knee injury in the first half. Williams tore the patellar tendon in his knee and had surgery to repair the injury shortly after he was diagnosed. He was just gaining momentum with three touchdowns and 208 yards rushing (3.9 avg.) on 54 carries when the injury occurred.
The third-year running back hasn't been seen around One Buc Place ever since the injury, but head coach Jon Gruden informed the media on Thursday that Williams is in fact back in the facility and has began rehab on his knee.
"He's back and he obviously misses football tremendously. It's great to have him back and he's a super guy," Gruden said. "He's got a long way to go in his rehab, but he checks in early and he checks out late. It's a grueling process and it's under way and we are optimistic about [assistant strength and conditioning coach] Kurt Shultz, [strength and conditioning coach] Mike Morris, [athletic trainer] Todd Toriscelli and [team physician] Joe Diaco helping him back."
Gruden realizes this process is not going to be a quick one, but is hoping to get the former first-round pick back on the field healthy as soon as possible.
"He's got a long road ahead of him, but he's in great spirits and off to a great start," Gruden said.
Williams' locker at One Buc Place is still relatively empty for the moment and he has been somewhat of a ghost this week to the media. However, Gruden hinted that if you look closely that you just might catch a glimpse of Williams roaming around the facilities.
"He's here and you can look around. If you look around carefully you just might see him," Gruden joked. "It's a big facility. If we were at [old] One Buc you wouldn't miss him, but I have no idea what stage of rehab he is in right now or which room he's in, but he's here somewhere."
Williams is able to walk around without any assistance of a cane or crutches and is strictly working on getting the strength back in his knee and leg. When the injury occurred, the Bucs were hopeful that he could be ready before the start of training camp, but it's likely that Williams won't be back at full strength before the 2008 season begins.
"He's walking around a little bit, but he still has a long way to go," Gruden said. "This was a very serious knee injury and they had a great performance I guess with the operation. I guess Mr. Andrews did a great job I'm sure as always and now it's a matter of him applying himself and committing himself which you know he will to a daily grind. It's not easy and we have the right people here to help him and it will be a collaborative effort, but it will get done."
Another player that has been seen in the locker room the last couple of weeks is rookie safety Sabby Piscitelli. Piscitelli was placed on injured reserve with a foot injury after Week 3 and has been seen in and out of the facility shortly after. Piscitelli, however, has been at One Buc Place every day for the last two weeks and has been given a new position on the team.
"Sabby is my assistant. He previews the next team, writes reports and is working on the Atlanta Falcons I'm sure right now up in my office," Gruden said. "He's staying on top of things and he's going to be a dynamic player for us. He's fast, learning our defense for the time being and we are looking forward to having him here someday."
Piscitelli was chosen in the second round (64th overall) of this year's draft out of Oregon State and was expected to challenge for the starting position at safety. However, with the emergence of safeties Jermaine Phillips and Tanard Jackson, Piscitelli was used mostly on special teams' during the preseason and regular season.
According to Gruden, quarterback Jeff Garcia took a lot more snaps on Thursday than he did on Wednesday, but was still listed as limited on the injury report. Gruden believes that the nine-year quarterback is getting better, but still was hesitant about naming him the starter vs. Houston.
"We will see how he feels tomorrow, but that's about all I can say," Gruden said. "I think he's certainly getting better."
Wide receiver Joey Galloway (toe) and linebacker Ryan Nece (groin) were added to the injury report and were limited in practice. Wide receiver Ike Hilliard (ankle) was the only other player that was limited in practice.
Fullback B.J. Askew (ankle) and running back Michael Pittman (ankle) didn't participate in practice. Askew, who has worn a boot on his ankle the last couple of weeks, has been in a hard cast for the past couple of days. Defensive ends Kevin Carter (shoulder) and Greg Spires (calf) participated fully in practice.
A LOCKER ROOM FULL OF JUBILATION
The Bucs locker room in New Orleans after a thrilling come-from-behind 27-23 victory was unlike any other in the last two seasons. There were high-fives, pats on the back and the players even started a cheer for Gruden. A loud, roaring chant of "Gruden, Gruden, Gruden" could be heard bellowing from the visiting locker room at the Superdome.
For a team that wasn't predicted to do too much this season, it was a satisfying feeling for the players and coaches to know that they moved one step closer to clinching the NFC South division and a playoff berth.
"It was ecstatic. A lot of people probably realized that we are never out of a game from coach taking it down to the last second to go for it to us getting the fumble. Just the drive, people just look at the call, but don't look at the three other plays that lead to the touchdown," linebacker Derrick Brooks said. "Jerramy [Stevens] with his first [touchdown] catch as a Buc and has been working that player forever in practice and now you finally execute it. I think more of the jubilation was there because a lot of people are making plays when your number is called. It's not just the same old guys. It wasn't [wide receiver Joey] Galloway, it was Jerramy Stevens. It was [quarterback] Luke [McCown] and evenMatt Lehr going into the ball game for the last [couple] of plays and he's a center and comes out cold, makes the calls, the blitz adjustments and all of that. So it's a lot of that and it was just the culmination of a locker room of everybody contributing."
Stevens, Lehr and McCown are just a small few of a cast of characters that have been a vital reason for the Bucs success this season. Stevens has seen few opportunities in the offense, but stepped up when tight end Alex Smith went down with an ankle injury earlier in the season. Lehr took his first snaps of the season when center John Wade left with an injury and McCown was filling in for starting quarterback Jeff Garcia who was out with a back bruise.
That is what the Bucs have had to endure this season and it seems like when one player goes down there is another one there to keep the train on the tracks as Gruden likes to say. Wide receiver Joey Galloway has been in a lot of locker rooms after many wins, but doesn't remember one quite like the Bucs locker room on Sunday.
"It was pandemonium in there. I think it was just the way that game ended," Galloway said. "Just set it up to make it that kind of a locker room afterwards and what that game meant to us being the Saints and on the road. The feeling as if our chances were very slim in the end and to come back and win it in the division, going in our locker room it set it up for a party."
The Bucs were down 23-20 with just over three minutes remaining in the game and were driving for the potential game-tying field goal or game-winning touchdown. Gruden made a crucial call on fourth-and-1 to go for it and running back Earnest Graham got a 2-yard gain to keep the drive alive.
With 14 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, McCown found Stevens for a 4-yard touchdown pass that gave Tampa Bay the victory. With the Bucs sitting at 8-4, they need just one victory to clinch the NFC South division.
BROOKS-DEBARTOLO COLLEGIATE HIGH SCHOOL HOLDS OPEN HOUSE
The high school that Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks has an invested interest in, the Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School, will be holding an open house this Saturday for prospective students that plan on attending the school in the 2007 Spring semester. There will be school tours for the students and their parents which will be available from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
BDCHS is the only charter high school in Hillsborough County and provides the opportunity for students to accelerate credit earning at the secondary level. The student enrollment is open to students who have completed the eighth grade and reside in Hillsborough County.
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